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Best of GarageCam: Royal Purple 300
CamGuy Matthew Dillner takes you on a behind the scenes look of the Nationwide Series garage at Auto Club Speedway.
Post-Race Reactions: Royal Purple 300
The top-five drivers react to an exciting race at Auto Club Speedway.
Strong starting spot at Indy a 'big deal' for Stewart
RELATED: Full starting lineup " See every car in the field SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- Tony Stewart wrapped up day two of his final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at Indianapolis Motor Speedway by qualifying third-best for the 40-car field that makes up Sunday’s Crown Royal presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard. It will be Stewart's best starting berth at Indy since winning the pole for the annual race at the legendary 2.5-mile track in 2002. It also equaled his best qualifying effort of what’s been an abbreviated season, matching his third-place start earlier this year at Michigan International Speedway. He announced last September that the 2016 season would be his last as a competitor in the Sprint Cup Series. Stewart put up the sixth-fastest lap in Saturday's opening round, enabling him to advance to the second round where he posted the second-fastest lap overall. In the final round of 12, his 184.328 mph lap was bettered only by Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch (184.634 mph) and Carl Edwards (184.547 mph). Stewart, 45, credited crew chief Mike Bugarewicz with making the appropriate changes between Friday's two practices and Saturday’s qualifying attempts. "I just wish I could do a lap … one more time and not clip the apron in (Turn) 4; I think we could have been on the pole," Stewart said after climbing from his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet. "What we learned today for qualifying, we are going to have to take some of that and try to make a car a little better for tomorrow." Starting position can be crucial -- the benefits ranging from optimum track position to a clear entry into and out of one's pit stall during the race. To start third, Stewart said, "is a big deal here. It always has been." The rules package in place for this year's race is 180 degrees from the high drag package implemented at Indy a year ago. Stewart said the difference is evident and positive. "It seems like the more downforce they take off these cars, the easier it is to race around each other," he said. "That is what you need, but it always helps when you can start up front. When you can get up there and really get working on your car in cleaner air and plan for the end of the race, that is really an advantage." Stewart sat out the first eight races of the 2016 season while recovering from injuries sustained in an off-road accident on Jan. 31. A victory last month at Sonoma Raceway and his ascension into the top-30 in points have put him in line for one of the 16 positions that will make up this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. "We just have been plugging away," he said. "Everybody thinks Sonoma was the game changer and it wasn't. I mean it was Pocono, it was Michigan -- those two races leading up to Sonoma were probably as big if not bigger than what we did at Sonoma. "Sonoma just gave us the opportunity to hopefully use what we are doing to get going in the Chase now." With his final start at Indy less than 24 hours away, Stewart, who has 49 career wins in NASCAR's premier series, was ready to turn his attention elsewhere. "Tonight I'm going to go to Kokomo Speedway for our All-Stars race and go to work there," he said. "Then come here tomorrow and have fun with our friends." Sunday’s race is scheduled to get underway at 3 p.m. ET. TV and radio coverage will be provided by NBCSN, the IMS Radio Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. </p>
Johnson looks to cure cold spell at the Brickyard
RELATED: Johnson through the years " See all the winners at the Brickyard SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Jimmie Johnson looked comfortable and calm taking questions from the media Friday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The six-time Sprint Cup Series champion's No. 48 Lowe’s Red Vest Chevrolet was fastest in the day's opening practice here and seventh quickest in final practice. The historically tough 2.5-mile track has been a positive outlet for Johnson. His success at Indianapolis – four wins – is undeniable, but it is also sporadic. And overdue. Johnson won three times at Indy in four years between 2006-2009 – a mark both unmatched and highly impressive. He added a fourth victory in 2012 and then nearly a fifth in 2013 when he finished runner-up. Only Jeff Gordon (five wins) has won more here. The flip side of the success is that three times Johnson has finished 36th or worse. He was 14th and 15th in his last two races at Indy. And his need to add another win here in Sunday's Crown Royal presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard (NBCSN, IMS, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) is as much about turning his season around in pursuit of a record-tying seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title as it is attaining Indianapolis-specific glory. "We love big events, that's one thing about Hendrick Motorsports,’" Johnson allowed, smiling. "We look at the 500 and the 400 and all big races as an opportunity; and are excited for it." Johnson was the first driver in 2016 to collect multiple trophies winning the second week of the season at Atlanta and then again three weeks later at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. But in the last 10 races, he's crashed out three times and had only a single top-10 finish – a third-place finish at Charlotte in the Coca-Cola 600 . In fact, four of his finishes in this stretch have been 25th or worse. Before a 12th- place finish from the pole position at New Hampshire last week, Johnson uncharacteristically crashed out in back-to-back races with a 35th- place showing at Daytona and 32nd at Kentucky. He's currently eighth in the points standings, however, he is fourth on the Chase Grid because of his multiple wins. "I guess last week is kind of a good example of some of the difficulties we've had," Johnson said of New Hampshire. "We had competitive cars all running in the top 11 and in one corner we lose two of them. "It's been tough, but I think we have a good foundation to build from. We have respectable finishes in our cars, but nobody wants to be a decent finisher or a respectable finisher. We all want to dominate. And, we're working real hard on all fronts; from our engine shop, chassis shop, aero, teams, pit stops, and all of it." Contrary to what other teams may be experiencing, Johnson said it's not that his team isn't trying hard enough to return to form. It may be they are trying too hard. "And that's the problem," Johnson said. "I've been at 110 percent and you make too many mistakes there. And I think our team has, too. So, that's one thing we have recognized and we're going to really try to dial back and make sure that we run where we should. "If we have a fifth place car that week, let's be sure that we at least finish fifth. Maybe there's some opportunities to give us a chance to win, but stop making mistakes. And, I've got to do that, first and foremost." Johnson said he was even open to having the team’s "new driver" Jeff Gordon give feedback on the cars since Gordon – who retired last year – is filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. this week at Indianapolis and next week at Pocono while Earnhardt continues to recover from concussion-like symptoms. "We're months in, and I feel like all the drivers have expressed where we could be stronger and what we might need, but a fresh set of eyes and I guess it is kind of biased, but versus the four drivers in unbiased evaluation of the car and where we stack-up and how the engine feels compared to others," Johnson said of possibly getting Gordon's opinion. "And Jeff has had a unique opportunity to see the sport from a totally different angle; and certainly watching cars and I know he's formed some opinions watching other race cars and where the Toyotas might beat us. So, to be able to sit in the car and look for those opportunities and moments, I think will be helpful for us, for sure." The recent struggles are certainly an unfamiliar position for team owner Rick Hendrick, who was just selected for the 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame class. He's grown much more accustomed to winning championships or at the very least challenging for titles. Recently his team has been challenging simply to finish a race. But righting the course is something everyone expects. And the trick is doing it sooner than later. "It seems like when it rains, it pours," Hendrick said. "I think at Daytona we wrecked three or four cars. And then we went to Kentucky and wrecked again. We were in good shape in New Hampshire, but wrecked again. I've been doing this long enough that you can't stay on top forever. You have to work hard to get back. And I think we've made a lot of improvements. "I think we'll see some, hopefully, this weekend. But, you never like having a curveball. This is kind of one of the toughest things you have to go through as one of your star drivers can't drive. And so, the encouraging news is that everybody just stepped up and is working harder. "We're determined to work in every area from the engine to the chassis and aero and everything. And the teams are excited. It's kind of our 'refuse to lose' belief. But we didn't need this, for sure. We didn't need the wrecks we've gone through. Our place looks like a salvage yard where all of the cars have been tore up. But that just makes us dig harder." And Johnson appears ready to lead the charge. "We're all highly inspired to get back on top of the mountain, that is where we feel we should be at Hendrick Motorsports," Johnson said. "We've just got to clean it up on all fronts. Hopefully we have it all together here and can win."
Stewart would consider substitute role in '17
RELATED: Pictures of 'Smoke' through the years Tony Stewart said Friday that he's completely content with Jeff Gordon 's return taking away some of the spotlight on his final scheduled start at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In fact, he said if the situation arose, he'd be open to a similar substitute role for his Stewart-Haas Racing team after his full-time career ends. Stewart, 45, is set for what should be his last race on the historic 2.5-mile track in Sunday's Crown Royal Presents The Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, IMS, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The event dovetails with Gordon emerging from retirement this weekend to substitute for Dale Earnhardt Jr. as he recovers from concussion-like symptoms. When Stewart was asked whether he and co-owner Gene Haas had discussed a similar contingency plan after his full-time driving days end this season, the three-time NASCAR champion said he was open to the idea. "We never thought of that, but actually it's something that I've thought about since the talk came about Jeff getting back in the car," said Stewart, a two-time Indy winner in NASCAR competition. "We don't have a feeder system, we don't have an XFINITY team, we don't have anybody who's in our system to bring up if that is the case. We'll talk about it, I'm sure, at some point. I'm definitely open to this scenario if it were to happen down the road and we needed somebody. I definitely would be open to what Jeff's doing this weekend." &lt;/p&gt;
Kyle Busch tops the heap in final Indy practice
RELATED: Practice 1 results " Final practice results Kyle Busch closed out final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice atop the leaderboard Friday afternoon, recovering from a spin earlier in the day and landing the fastest speed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Busch, the defending race winner, lapped the track with a best speed of 184.619 mph in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota as teams made mock qualifying runs ahead of Saturday's time trials. It marked an improvement over his 12th-best time during Friday's opening 85-minute session at the 2.5-mile track. During that opening session, Busch's No. 18 Camry slightly touched the car of Patrick Carpentier as they raced side-by-side in Turn 2. Busch, the defending series champion, spun out without making further contact. Former Brickyard winner Kevin Harvick registered the second-fastest lap, pushing the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet to a lap of 184.268 mph. Kyle Larson , Ryan Newman and Carl Edwards completed the top five in the final practice before Sunday's Crown Royal Presents The Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, IMS, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Jeff Gordon was 25th-fastest in his second stint of practice ahead of his first Sprint Cup start of the season. The four-time series champion notched a 180.375-mph lap in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet, filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. , who is sidelined for the second straight week by concussion-like symptoms. Tony Stewart , prepping for his final scheduled Sprint Cup start at his home-state track, was 24th-fastest (180.505 mph) in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Chevrolet. Coors Light Pole Qualifying is set Saturday at 1:45 p.m. ET (NBCSN). Sunday's race will be the 20th of 36 points-paying races this season. Johnson sets pace in opening Indy practice Jimmie Johnson soared to the top of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series leaderboard Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in an opening practice that featured the return of Jeff Gordon to competition. Johnson pushed the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet to a best lap of 184.185 mph around the 2.5-mile track. He'll seek his fifth Indianapolis win in Sunday's Crown Royal Presents The Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, IMS, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Former Indy pole winner Denny Hamlin was second-fastest in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota at 182.563 mph, a sizable .434 seconds off Johnson's pace. Casey Mears (180.346 mph), Kevin Harvick (179.845 mph) and Ryan Newman (179.784 mph) completed the top five in the 85-minute opening session. Gordon clocked the ninth-fastest speed, landing a 179.376 mph lap in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet. He's scheduled to make his first Sprint Cup start of the season Sunday as a replacement for Dale Earnhardt Jr. as he recovers from concussion-like symptoms. Tony Stewart , scheduled to make his final Brickyard start in what's to be his last full-time season, was eighth-fastest at 179.655 mph in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Chevrolet. The native Hoosier will be vying for his third Brickyard victory in Sunday's 400-miler. Defending Sprint Cup champion Kyle Busch, also the defending race winner, was 12th-fastest but recovered from a spin at the one-hour mark of the session. Busch's Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota made a prolonged slide out of Turn 2 after making contact with the Go FAS Racing No. 32 Ford of Patrick Carpentier. Carpentier, 44, walked over to Busch's garage stall later in the session to issue an apology for crowding his pass attempt. Carpentier was 39th-fastest of the 41 drivers entered during first practice. &amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;gt;
Meet Sunday's hero, grand marshal for Brickyard 400
SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- Retired U.S. Navy Seal Jason Redman freely admits he's new to big-time NASCAR racing and says he cannot wait to see the sights and feel the atmosphere at one of the Sprint Cup Series' biggest events here at Indianapolis Motor Speedway come Sunday. The excitement and honor, however, is greatly reciprocated. Redman, 40, who sacrificed for our country serving multiple tours in Iraq, will serve as grand marshal and has gifted the name of Sunday's race, "The Crown Royal presents …." from using his name to celebrating his charity, Combat Wounded Coalition. The Virginia native Redman has had nearly 40 surgeries to repair massive injuries to his face and arm suffered while fighting in Iraq. And he and his wife founded the Combat Wounded Coalition to serve military members needing specialized services because of their injuries. "I think the whole experience I'm looking forward to, no doubt,'' Redman said, adding with a laugh. "Now I've ruined it forever because I'll never be able to come back to a race because it will never be this good again. "Everything I've ever heard about NASCAR is just incredible from the racing, to the sounds of the engine and the track. People are so friendly and have a good time. The whole experience and then take that up another notch with everything I get to do like waving the green flag, leading the field in the pace car. That will be amazing." Redman said he was looking forward to meeting drivers and was especially grateful to spend time with Danica Patrick on Friday. The two talked about their different workouts and their shared love of dogs. "She was phenomenal and we had a great conversation,'' Redman said. He is looking forward to a full day of NASCAR access on Sunday. He will attend the drivers' meeting, drive the pace car, present the trophy to the winner and kiss the bricks. "This is definitely up there,'' Redman said. "It's a two part thing how incredible it is. On the one side, the experience of being here and how cool it is. And the flip side is for Crown Royal to allow us to name this race after my non-profit and to use it as an opportunity to highlight the sacrifices of so many of our veterans. … that was amazing. "Both of those opportunities are just beyond. I can't think of any better place than here at a NASCAR race. If there's any group of Americans that doesn't take their freedom for granted it is NASCAR fans." If you are interested finding out more information about the charity Combat Wounded Coalition, visit the organization at combatwoundedcoalition.org .
Busch picks up Coors Light Pole Award in search of Brickyard defense
RELATED: Full starting lineup " See the full field SPEEDWAY, Ind. – A sweep at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is nothing new to Kyle Busch. But this year, he started early. With a lap at 184.634 mph (48.745 seconds) in the final round of Saturday's knockout qualifying, Busch claimed the pole position for Sunday’s Crown Royal 400 (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, IMS, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Earlier in the day, the driver who swept both the NASCAR Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series races at Indy last year earned the pole award ahead of the heat races prior to Saturday afternoon’s Lilly Diabetes 250 XFINITY race. But the Sprint Cup pole that completed the Saturday sweep was special, because it was the first for Busch at the vaunted Brickyard. "I haven't been great at qualifying here, but the guys gave me a great piece this time around, and I'm real pumped about that," said Busch, who claimed his second Coors Light Pole Award of the season and the 19th of his career. "We're starting first in both of these (races), and hopefully we can end that way. "It means a lot (to win the pole). It's definitely pretty special to be running the way that we're running and to have the success that we've had here the last couple of years at Indy, and I’d love nothing more than to try to win here again." Busch’s No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was .023 seconds faster than the No. 19 of teammate Carl Edwards (184.547 mph). "I was happy with my lap," Edwards said. "I was surprised Kyle got me. That was a good lap for him – I mean, that was a good lap that he ran because I felt like my lap was pretty good – but, yeah, it's frustrating right now to be second because it's so close, and the pole position is obviously huge here. "But by tomorrow, the race gets started and I think I'll be pretty happy with that starting spot, so just good job by all my guys." Making his last appearance at Indy as a Sprint Cup Series driver, Tony Stewart earned the third starting spot with a lap at 184.328 mph and knew exactly where he had lost critical speed. "I just wish I could do lap three (final round) one more time and not clip the apron in (Turn) 4," Stewart said. "I think we could have been on the pole." RELATED: Stewart discusses his qualifying effort Denny Hamlin qualified fourth, giving JGR three of the top four spots. Brad Keselowski in fifth has the top Ford. Ryan Newman , Kevin Harvick , Martin Truex Jr. , Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson will start from positions six through 10, respectively. The time trials were a disappointment for the Hendrick Motorsports drivers, who failed to place a car in the top 12. Jimmie Johnson ran the fastest lap of the day in the first of three rounds, touring the 2.5-mile speedway in 48.435 seconds (185.816 mph). But the six-time series champion failed to advance beyond the second round, losing the 12th and final position to Kurt Busch by .008 seconds. Johnson will start 13th, Chase Elliott 15th and Jeff Gordon , subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr. , who is out with concussion-like symptoms, claimed the 21st spot on the grid. "I felt really comfortable right there," said Gordon, who was 15th fastest in the first round. "I feel like today I’m much calmer than I was yesterday (in practice). Usually, my heart is beating more for qualifying than it is for practice, but that wasn't the case. "So, today I feel more relaxed and comfortable in the car. I hope to feel the same way tomorrow. Tomorrow's challenge is going to be being around traffic, and also trying to get the balance of the car right and do that when you're by yourself as well as when you're around other cars." Josh Wise failed to make the 40-car field. </p>
Dale Jr. tweets update: 'I sensed improvement'
RELATED: Dale Jr. injury timeline " Views of Gordon behind the No. 88 SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. took to social media Friday morning, updating his fans on his condition as he sits out his second consecutive race since being diagnosed with "concussion-like symptoms." Today is the 1st day in many that I sensed improvement. Seen small gains during my physical therapy as well. Light at the end of the tunnel. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) July 22, 2016 No determination has been made concerning Earnhardt's return to competition. At Indianapolis Motor Speedway, team owner Rick Hendrick said an appearance at the team's headquarters in Concord, North Carolina, earlier this week by his driver was a good sign. "Wednesday he came by the shop, and we got to visit," Hendrick said. "He looks good; he is encouraged. … We're really excited. He is in great spirits." Hendrick, whose HMS organization fields entries for drivers Jimmie Johnson , Chase Elliott and Kasey Kahne in addition to Earnhardt Jr., said Earnhardt is eager to get back in the car, but is also following doctors' orders. "He wants to race," Hendrick said, "but he also knows the regime they have him on will get him right for a long time. He's following doctors' orders but I can tell he is getting antsy. But he is going to do what they say." Earnhardt initially visited doctors prior to this month's race at Kentucky for what he thought was a sinus infection. Eventually, however, it was determined his condition was likely the result of an impact (or impacts) in recent races. As a result, he was not cleared to return to competition. Alex Bowman , who has competed for Earnhardt’s JR Motorsports team this season in the XFINITY Series, was tabbed to fill in for the team last weekend at New Hampshire, where he finished 26th. Four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon is taking over the driving duties for this weekend's Crown Royal Presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard at IMS (3 p.m., NBCSN, IMS, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). He is also scheduled to be in the car next week when the series moves to Pocono Raceway. It is the second time Earnhardt has been sidelined for a concussion or concussion-like symptoms. He sat out two races in 2012 following a hard crash during a test at Kansas Speedway. "I really enjoyed spending time with him Wednesday," Hendrick said. "He misses this. He misses his team. He went to see his team. He saw the guys and it really lifted them. "I think between Jeff agreeing to drive the car and Junior walking in the shop, the team is really excited. Jeff's situation with our company, everybody there knows him; and when some unknown person is going to get in the car, or clearly not anyone of the talent that Jeff has here at Indy, so that excited the team. But more than anything, when (Earnhardt) walked in that building it just lifted everybody up. So, we're really excited. Everybody is there for Junior and his health is number one priority. But we feel good about where we are right now." It was also announced by HMS officials earlier this week that Earnhardt had "underwent further evaluation at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program." Gordon has not competed since stepping away from driving at the conclusion of the 2015 season. He is a five-time winner of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at IMS, making him the winningest NASCAR wheelman at the track.
Stewart: I 'definitely want to win here' at Indy
RELATED: Stewart receives gift from Indy " WATCH: 'Smoke's' first Brickyard win SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- Fresh off a runner-up finish a week ago at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and with a win already in his pocket, it was a confident Tony Stewart that arrived at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Friday. Twenty-eighth in points, Stewart's recent results in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series have propelled the three-time series champion closer to locking down one of the 16 spots in this year's championship-determining Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Those finishes have also improved his outlook for Sunday's Crown Royal Presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, IMS, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). It will be his final scheduled start at the legendary 2.5-mile facility where he is a two-time winner and hometown favorite. Co-owner of the four-team Stewart-Haas Racing organization, Stewart is scheduled to retire from Sprint Cup competition at season's end. Two of his previous three seasons were abbreviated due to off-track incidents. And the '16 season began in the same fashion, with Stewart missing the first eight races due to an off-season back injury. But with a victory at Sonoma Raceway, and top-five finishes in his last two outings, Stewart said he arrived at IMS less stressed and more focused than ever. "It's been awhile, it's been a long while," Stewart said of the confidence. "I mean it's a good feeling I can tell you that. "Anytime you get hurt like we did with our leg injury and everything that happened after that there is all speculation of why you are not running good. You guys had asked the same question -- 'has that been a factor in it?' "It's been nice to kind of get it all put behind us and show everybody that is not what this is all about and that was not the factor. It just was getting cars to feel right. I think that was the biggest thing just trying to get through the speculation of 'can he do this anymore?' and 'why is he not competitive?' "When you finally get going and you start running up front with guys that you are used to running with again then you are getting text messages after the race saying 'hey it was glad to see you up there with us again.' That is the stuff that makes you feel like 'hey we are back where we belong now.'" Stewart's No. 14 Chevrolet was eighth fastest in Friday's opening practice and 24th in the day's final session. MORE: Views from opening day at Indy Stewart's Brickyard victories came in 2005 and '07 while still competing for Joe Gibbs Racing. His best finish since joining SHR came in '09 when he placed third. Qualifying for Sunday's race is scheduled for Saturday at 1:45 p.m. ET. JGR driver Carl Edwards won the pole here a year ago while eventual series champion Kyle Busch won the race. "Everybody wants to win here," Stewart said. "Definitely want to win here myself. It would be pretty cool." MORE: Stewart claims second Brickyard crown